Cuba singer Rodriguez wistful, polemical in US show

* Adoring New York audience hears folk singer Rodriguez

* He assails US jailing of five Cubans convicted of spying

* Small number of protesters outside Carnegie Hall

By Walker Simon

NEW YORK, June 5 (BestGrowthStock) – Cuban folk singer Silvio
Rodriguez, a leading musical voice of the Cuban revolution,
launched his first U.S. tour in 30 years in a concert blending
wistful ballads with his criticism of the imprisonment of five
Cubans convicted in the United States of spying.

He performed on Friday night before an adoring audience at
sold-out Carnegie Hall. A small number of protesters gathered
outside the famed music venue, some supporting and some
opposing Cuba’s government, under the watchful gaze of New York
police in vans with silently flashing multicolored lights.

Rodriguez, 63, is the latest Cuban performer recently to be
allowed into United States, which had routinely denied such
visas under former President George W. Bush.

Many of Rodriguez’s songs extol the Cuban revolution that
brought Fidel Castro in power in 1959, but others also lightly
criticize the communist-led society.

Some fans in the raucous, mainly Hispanic crowd draped
leftist Latin American revolutionary symbols and Cuban flags
over the horseshoe-shaped balcony balustrades. Scattered shouts
of “Viva Fidel” resounded in praise of Fidel Castro, who two
years ago handed over power in Cuba to his brother Raul.

Rodriguez sounded a humble note at the concert’s outset,
saying in Spanish, “I apologize that I don’t speak English. …
This is a pity.”

Most of his songs were lyrical meditations on longing for
personal happiness and paeans to socially minded utopias. But
midway through the concert, he dedicated a song to five Cuban
men convicted in a Miami court in 2001 on spying charges.

Rodriguez said the men were “unjustly imprisoned for more
than 10 years,” and he proclaimed: “They are five heroes.”

U.S. prosecutors have said the men were part of a Cuban
espionage ring that had spied on the Cuban exile community in
Florida and sought to penetrate U.S. military facilities.

Cuba long has called for their release, saying they did not
receive a fair trial in Miami, center of the exile community
that fled after Fidel Castro took power.

Outside the theater, one protester projected a three-story
high image onto Carnegie Hall’s facade of Orlando Zapata
Tamayo, an imprisoned hunger striker who died in Cuba in
February while demanding better prison conditions.

Rodriguez’s tour will include concerts in Washington,
Orlando, Los Angeles and Oakland, California.

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(Editing by Will Dunham)

Cuba singer Rodriguez wistful, polemical in US show